Deficits in joint action explain why socially anxious individuals are less well liked

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© 2015 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Background and objectives: Socially anxious individuals elicit less positive reactions from interlocutors than non-anxious individuals, but evidence for a distinctive social anxiety linked behaviour deficit to explain this finding has been sparse. We investigated whether socially anxious individuals engage less in joint action - a process which promotes rapport and usually arises spontaneously between conversation partners when they actively attend to the conversation. Methods: In Study 1, participants with high fear of negative evaluation, and low fear of negative evaluation conversed with a peer. Study 2 simulated the cognitive impact of anxiety-linked threat focus in non-anxious participants via a partial distraction task and measured the social consequences. Results: In Study 1, listeners with high fear of negative evaluation made fewer collaborative contributions to a partner's anecdote (an index of joint action). In Study 2, non-anxious distracted listeners showed the same behavioural pattern (fewer collaborative responses) and were less well-liked by their conversation partners, compared to non-distracted listeners. Limitations: We coded for only one marker of joint action. Future research should identify further indices of connectedness between partners. In addition, both studies were conducted with small groups of university students, and future research should be conducted on larger samples selected on the basis of social anxiety, not fear of negative evaluation alone. Conclusions: Together, these findings indicate that socially anxious individuals engage less in the shared task of conversation, and this behaviour attracts less positive responses from conversation partners.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-151
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Early online date6 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2016


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